Design students share insights from DesignThinkers Vancouver 2019
Speakers at DesignThinkers VAN 2019
Five Student RGDs were awarded Scholarships to DesignThinkers Vancouver 2019 for embracing self-reflection as they critiqued their previous design projects. To cap off their DesignThinkers experience, they have highlighted their main takeaways from the Conference.


The call for DesignThinkers Toronto Scholarship entries will launch shortly. Check back soon for updates!


Gwen Chiasson Student RGD | George Brown College

Sponsored by Twice

Prior to DesignThinkers Vancouver I had not attended a design conference, nor had I visited the west coast of Canada. As such, I was thrilled at the opportunity to attend this year’s DesignThinkers Vancouver conference thanks to RGD and Twice. I was also fortunate enough to be attending the conference with two of my friends, and fellow scholarship recipients, Jenni and Lee, whom I met at George Brown College through working at the IN store together.


We attended the DesignThinkers Studio Crawl the day before the conference started, which provided us with the amazing opportunity of touring some design studios in downtown Vancouver. We visited Rethink, Pound & Grain, Soft Vision, and Turtle. The four studios were all unique in their office style, and type of design jobs they work on. This provided us with a lot of information and inspiration for when we start looking for jobs after graduation. The snacks, beverages, and stickers that we collected along the way thanks to the kindness of the studios were also a major highlight of the tour. I would recommend this tour to anyone attending a DesignThinkers conference.



The first day of the conference started out strong with Austin Kleon’s talk called “Creative is Not a Noun.” His talk was filled with relatable antidotes, endless picture-worthy presentation slides, and quotable moments. One of my favourite things I wrote down during his talk is “It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take things to.” He provided a lot of useful tips such as this for us as designers regarding creative longevity and a fulfilling work-life balance. I am also now very interested in black-out poetry and cannot wait to try this out for myself (if you do not know what it is, definitely look it up!).


The stand out moment of the conference for me was the talk called “A New Conversation on Brand Design: Connected Brands and the Power of Language” by two Creative Directors at R/GA, Jennifer Vano and Augustus Cook. Learning about the Verbal Design practice was inspiring, and I am excited to put this new knowledge to the test in upcoming design projects.  What truly blew me away about their talk was their branding case study of Evolved by Nature. It left me in awe and amazement. Overall their talk was thought provoking, well structured, and delivered with eloquence, and if I could watch it over again, I would.


Jennifer Filman Student RGD | George Brown College

Sponsored by One Twenty Three West

This was my first time ever at a DesignThinkers conference and I couldn’t be happier to have traveled across the country from Toronto to Vancouver to attend this year! The only way that this would’ve been possible was receiving the scholarship from RGD and 123w—so thank you both again for having this program in place. While I would’ve been happy to attend the
conference on my own, the best part was that three of my peers from college also received the scholarship so we could attend as a group. This made the experience that much more enjoyable!


Starting off the conference by going on the studio crawl organized by RGD was a great way to set the tone for the next two days. Strolling around the streets of downtown Vancouver and meeting awesome designers from different disciplines (and not to mention a few dogs) was a great way to spend an afternoon. I learned a lot more about what types of roles are out there and maybe even some places to apply for jobs if I decide to move west again one day.


I went into the conference knowing that I’d be covering it for my social media position with the IN Store at GBC so that my peers could see what was happening too. It was fun to create an Instagram story that showed some of the highlights from the conference and that I can now look
back on for inspiration. All of the talks were amazing and by amazing speakers, but I’d have to say that Mike Monteiro’s final talk about taking down Silicon Valley on Day 2 really lit mine and everyone else’s fire. The short form, 10 minute lightning talks were also a lot of fun to listen to and were a good break of pace through the day. I enjoyed the downtime at the conference too in the Marketplace—we made hand drawn buttons and I picked up some free posters that are now hanging above my bed!


I’ve been to Vancouver more than a handful of times and I always enjoy my visits—this time was no exception. I was able to hit up my favourite cafes, wander around Gastown and Stanley Park, see new parts of the city I’d never been to before like Kitsilano, and sweat my way up the Grouse Grind for the first time. I feel so lucky that I could enjoy 6 beautiful warm sunny days and beach sunsets there. I came back to Toronto feeling refreshed and inspired for what’s next in my design career! Thanks RGD!


Lee Jong Student RGD | George Brown College

Sponsored by Pound & Grain

Over the past 3 years my passion for design has only grown and being able to attend DesignThinkers Vancouver has only made me extremely proud of my decision to pursue a career as a graphic designer.

I’m very lucky to attend a school that is very industry connected, with teachers that push us to attend design events to see what’s going on in the design world. Because of this I’ve always known about DesignThinkers but never thought I’d get the opportunity to attend during my school years.

I arrived a couple of days before the conference and had no idea what to expect, though I was excited to meet like minded individuals and be surrounded by creative energy.

The conference started off with an agency crawl. We visited a handful of agencies that opened their doors and took us on tours of their amazing spaces. My two favourites were Rethink Vancouver and Pound & Grain. Both of these agencies had really cool office spaces and were working on some really exciting projects, oh and were just filled with some really awesome people!

The next day the conference kicked off, and what a whirlwind it was! Each speaker brought something unique and insightful and I felt inspired and ready to tackle my next design project with all this new knowledge. The second day was just as amazing as the first. I left the entire event so inspired and having discovered role models who are creating amazing work around the world.

The conference exceeded my expectations in every way. Events like DesignThinkers are so important. They remind us of the community that we are surrounded by and the mountains of support we have from across the globe. I would like to thank RGD for planning and hosting DesignThinkers Vancouver. As well, I would like to give a special shout out and a big thank you to Pound & Grain for awarding me my scholarship to DesignThinkers Vancouver 2019.


Stephanie NG Student RGD | University of Alberta

Sponsored by One Twenty Three West

This was my first time attending any sort of design conference, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that DesignThinkers Vancouver 2019 was my very first one. I was incredibly impressed with the number of amazing speakers who had such diverse topics to talk about.

However, before the conference started, I had the opportunity to participate in a Studio Crawl organized by the RGD. There, it was a small group of us travelling around downtown Vancouver and visiting four different design agencies and studios. We visited SoftVision, Turtle Inc., Pound & Grain, and Rethink. We got the meet the members of each team and check out their latest projects and answer any questions we had! It ranged from a more formal presentation and overview of what a company did, or just a casual sit-down Q&A. After talking to the people behind these companies, it inspired me to really pursue an internship with these companies or the other creative agencies that Vancouver has to offer. Including both this Studio Crawl and the DesignThinkers conference, it really solidified that Vancouver has such a creative landscape and it was so inspiring and empowering to meet other creatives in this city. It got me excited again about design and reaffirms that what I’m studying is something I love.

Moving onto the conference, there were so many speakers who all had such interesting things to talk about. I was constantly writing down notes in my notebook. I was so amazed with the work and the background of each speaker had. The first keynote, Austin Kleon, I was already a fan of his books, so it was so surreal that he was speaking right in front of me (I was close to the front row). Also, I just couldn’t believe the amount of talent on that stage, we had people coming from Adobe, Imaginary Forces, Herschel Supply Co., just to name a few. This conference focused on the topic of visual communication design, but I felt they touched on more than just design. Speakers talked about how to utilize teamwork, beauty as a concept, and other topics. Overall, my experience attending DesignThinkers 2019 was an unforgettable one. I had the opportunity to meet incredible people from the industry, and I hope to visit another DesignThinkers conference in the future.


Dora Tanasoiu Student RGD | George Brown College

Sponsored by Will Creative Inc.

I came to DesignThinkers as a student who was just about to graduate and it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the industry before diving in. I was extremely lucky to win this RGD scholarship that gave me the opportunity to travel from Toronto to Vancouver for the first time. I’ve been living in Canada for 19 years and never got the chance to travel west. RGD DesignThinkers gave me the opportunity to explore my horizons and engage with the design community as well. I thought of the conference as a great stepping stone for learning about the design field. Before the conference started my friends and I signed up for the design agency tour which was absolutely lovely. We got to visit multiple design agencies like Rethink, Pound & Grain and Turtle Design. I really liked visiting each agency and getting to see the creative environments I could one day work in.



I found the speakers to be quite intriguing and diverse, there were designers with all sorts of specializations. I got to hear a variety of speakers who had many words of wisdom for young creatives like me. I loved hearing the different perspectives of the speakers, their individual stories and their process with design, but I had to say one talk resonated with me the most. Mike Monteiro the author of “How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It” stood out to me. I was so deeply moved by his talk because he spoke the ugly truth which many are afraid to do, and  I admire that. Not often do you hear designers telling other designers to question their actions, question whether our work aligns with our morals and overall critique our selves on a deeper level.


I left feeling inspired and motivated for the next steps in my design career. I learned so much⁠—not only about the importance of design but about society and our role as designers in it. I got to hear motivating speeches from professionals in the industry, but I also had a lot of fun in between talks. My friends and I got to make our own buttons at one of the booths, we got free goodies like cool posters and prints with incredible art on it. We even got to enter draws where my friend was lucky enough to win a polaroid camera! I’ll never forget my first time in the beautiful city that is Vancouver and I plan to always keep in mind what I learned at DesignThinkers so I can apply it to my day to day life as I grow as a designer.



Thank you to One Twenty Three WestPound & GrainTwice and Will Creative Inc. for providing this year's Emerging Designers' Scholarships for DesignThinkers Vancouver!